An Alabama teacher who claimed it was her constitutional right to have sex with two students has been sentenced to state prison.
On Thursday, Carrie Cabri Witt received a 10-year sentence. However, Witt will only spend 18 months in state prison, followed by 18 months in a community corrections program. She will serve the remainder of her sentence on probation.
Witt pleaded guilty in March to one count of a school employee engaging in a sex act with a student under the age of 19. Prosecutors had dismissed a second count.
The now-48-year-old was arrested in March 2016 and accused of having sex with two students, ages 17 and 18. She was a teacher at Decatur High School.
After her arrest, Witt’s attorneys argued that she had a constitutional right to have sex with the students. Under Alabama law, anyone over 16 without a specified infirmity can consent to sex.
Her attorneys argued in court filings that state statutes which prohibit a school employee from having sex with a student are unconstitutional. They argued that there are other laws to protect people who are incapable of consent because of age, mental impairment, physical incapacity and in cases of coercion or fraud — but that none of those stipulations applied in the case.
But prosecutors disagreed, arguing that the statute was constitutional and was necessary to protect high school students from sexual advances by teachers and other school employees.
According to court documents accessed by PEOPLE, a judge refused to dismiss the case. Subsequently, Witt pleaded guilty ahead of her scheduled trial.
During her sentencing, Witt apologized for her actions.
“I’m ashamed,” she told the judge, the Decatur Daily reports. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more ashamed of myself.” Since her arrest, she said her character and her “ability to be a mother” have been criticized.
According to the newspaper, on Thursday, one of the victims testified that he did not agree with the law that prohibits teachers and school employees from having sex with students.
“The crime doesn’t fit the punishment,” he said, calling the sex consensual.
Witt faced up to 20 years in prison. As part of her sentence, she must register as a sex offender.